Our Binary Democracy
Multiple-choice decisions can be intimidating. A panoply of options forces you to think about stuff, and that’s tiring. How much easier, instead, to make a simple call between “A” and “B,” between the favorite and the underdog, between chicken and beef, Staples and Office Depot.
Same deal with our current version of democracy. After all the fringe outliers have been duly dismissed from consideration or attention, two plausible choices – the Republican nominee and the Democratic nominee – are usually all we’re offered at the polls. That’s plenty for folks overburdened by bloated email in-boxes and DVR queues bursting with back episodes of cooking shows. By reducing our political future to a coin-flip, we don’t have to worry our pretty little heads trying to figure out the subtle shades of difference between candidates, or parties, and we certainly don’t have to waste time and energy on understanding “the issues.” When merely two candidates are made to seem to be the only choices worth considering, it’s much easier for the busy voter to figure out who’s Good and who’s Bad, who mirrors our world-view and who contradicts it.
So you’re either a Conservative or a Liberal, a gun person or not a gun person, pro-business or anti-business. Everything is so much clearer when we limit choices.
Easier for the media, too. Easier for lobbyists. Easier for everyone.
But is it best for America?
Most other democracies in 2016 present voters numerous parties and platforms. Governments abroad form not by royal fiat but, rather, by building coalitions of various parties representing a myriad of disparate views, including socialism, communism and fascism. The downside with this arrangement is that the electorate must closely analyze each candidate’s positions, which is such a drag when there’s more important stuff happening in the NBA and on the E! network. The upside is you sometimes find a candidate who represents your beliefs.
This can occasionally happen in our binary system of American democracy. But almost always our elections appear to be a choice between “the lesser of two evils,” between someone you would never vote for and someone you must vote for if only to prevent the other guy from winning. The two wings of the Money Party, with cooperation from their mouthpieces in the News-and-Entertainment sector, have most Americans convinced that the next President of the United States – and all the Senators and Representatives and Governors – must be red or blue, elephant or donkey.
The truth is, we have many options. The truth is, candidates who don’t identify with either of the prevailing mafias more closely represent the concerns and beliefs of many millions of concerned citizens. The truth is, we’ve been bamboozled and hoodwinked into the patently false assumption that these “alternative” candidates can’t win.
That’s a lie. Anyone who receives enough votes can win. The Dems and Reps and their broadcast partners have done a splendid job suggesting otherwise because it’s in their best interest to eliminate competition. But we don’t have to be propaganda victims. We can reject the current model by voting Green, Libertarian, Peace & Freedom – for whichever candidate reflects our convictions, not our laziness. Given the utterly broken Electoral College system, with some states going “all or nothing” on their delegates, your vote is probably worth less now than ever. But it’s still yours, your one note in a nationwide choral symphony. Don’t let anyone tell you you’re wasting it by voting for someone you believe in.
Ironically (and somewhat curiously), the best choice in the field this year is running as a Democrat. Bernie Sanders, officially Independent in the United States Senate, seeks the nomination of one of the two parties that are seen as capable of winning a national election, despite the fact that his policy positions are dramatically more progressive than Democrat-in-Chief Obama. By running Democrat, Sanders instantly invited accusations of being “out-of-the-mainstream,” the kiss of death in the binary arrangement.
His opponents have nothing substantive to say about income inequality and systemic racism and corporate criminality, but they do have one persistent shrugging criticism of the man from Vermont, the same thing that’s said about anyone who doesn’t play the money=politics game: Sanders, they say, can’t win.
Perhaps Bernie should expose the lie, run as a genuine “third-party” Independent and prove everybody wrong.